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The Dirt

Combating The Loneliness Epidemic

By: Emma Shandy Anway

When I moved to Davis in June of 2020 with a six-month-old baby, I wanted to find a way to connect with other new moms. I posted in the Davis Parents Facebook group, hoping to find one or two mamas interested in meeting up. Instead, I got so many responses we decided to start a weekly mama/baby support group.

This was in the throes of the pandemic. Our group would meet outdoors in Central Park, sitting 6+ feet away from each other during the hot days of the Yolo County Summer, commiserating over the wild ups and downs of navigating postpartum life during a global pandemic. This group catalyzed because so many of us were desperate for support and camaraderie during this vulnerable season. It has remained a lifeline.

Social isolation is over, but experiences of disconnection and isolation are still so present. A Harvard study found that 43% of young adults reported increases in loneliness since the outbreak of the pandemic. In 2023, the U.S. surgeon general, Vivek H. Murthy, released an advisory calling attention to what he called “America’s loneliness epidemic”.

In other words, we have become so disconnected as a society that the experience of loneliness has now been categorized into an urgent public health issue. Not only does loneliness impact mental health, leading to increased feelings of depression, it’s also detrimental to physical health and can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, dementia and premature death. 

It is ironic that there is a collectiveness in this experience of aloneness. The data tells us more people than not are feeling this way, which means most people would love to have more close friends—or a solid sense of community.

The good news is, there is another way. We don’t actually have to stay on our lonely little islands, and it doesn’t even have to take huge efforts to make this change.

Connection that begins in micro ways often ends up having macro impacts on overall health and happiness. Small gestures like introducing yourself to a new neighbor, or in my case, posting on social media groups have the potential to lead to consistent potluck dinners in the neighborhood, or even lifelong friendships.

Action Items
  • STUDENTS: Pick a club that sounds interesting and commit to going to one event next quarter.
  • PARENTS:  Strike up a conversation with another parent at the park—maybe they’d like to go for froyo after.
  • COFFEE + BEER: Can’t decide if you’d rather grab a cup or a pint with a new pal? How about both. Challenge yourself to check out the new Volt Coffee on Olive Drive in Davis with someone this month. Artisanal coffee every day, and local taps on the weekends.
  • VENMO: A friend $10 for a morning latte splurge to let them know you’re thinking of them.
  • AT WORK: Choose an event on The Dirt’s calendar this month and invite a coworker you’ve been wanting to get to know better. That has the potential of making your workplace feel a little more connected. 
This month’s article is dedicated to Shannon Callahan.
Beloved, magical founding member of our mama/baby group.

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